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Saturday, April 16, 2005

By Woody Peele

'Sam' Pankey lends news meaning to multitasking

©2005 Bonesville.net


Samantha Pankey
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(ECU Media
Relations Photo)

At a time when the NCAA is moaning and groaning over the academics of some student-athletes, East Carolina can point to one of its own as a stellar example of what a student-athlete can achieve.

Women’s basketball guard Samantha “Sam” Pankey is nearing graduation following her senior season with the Lady Pirates in a manner seldom seen.

She not only carries a 4.0 grade point average, she stands first academically in the Class of 2005.

“Samantha Pankey is the epitome of what we’d like to see in students-athletes,” Pirate athletic director Terry Holland said. “And this is fact, her story is so incredible that I’m not sure that I’ve every heard of a student-athlete who started on a big-time women’s basketball team who is No. 1 in a class of close to 6,000 students.

 “It’s just an incredible story and one we can’t tell too often.”

Pankey, a 5-7 guard from Dilwyn, VA, not only has been a leader in the classroom, but on the basketball court as well. For much of her career, she performed as a play-maker and not a scorer. Her career scoring average was just under her GPA, at 3.6, but was 5.4 during her senior season.

She led the team with 86 assists this past campaign and her 29 steals was second on the squad, playing in all 28 games and starting 27 of them.

Playing on the basketball team with all it entails — attending meetings, watching films, practice and playing — takes up a large amount of time, women’s basketball coach Sharon Baldwin-Tener said. Missing classes while on the road also makes it difficult to keep up with class work, let along maintain a 4.0 GPA.

“I think whenever you’re a college athlete in any sport, the training and all the preparation that goes into being successful at this level takes an awful lot of time,” Baldwin-Tener said. “So in order to be a great student-athlete, you have to know how to manage your time and set your priorities, make sure you take care of things that are important first.

 “Sam is one of the best I’ve seen at that. She is able to focus when she needs to take care of business and is also able to balance and take care of business on the floor, whether it’s practice or a game.”

Pankey, who will graduate in May with a degree in English and Communication, agrees.

“Basketball takes a lot of time out of your schedule,” Pankey said, pointing to the NCAA rules that allow 20 hours of time weekly for the sport. “We get that every week, so you have to budget time and sacrifice. You just can’t go out and do whatever.

 “A lot of people find it hard to miss class, but I don’t,” she continued. “I’d rather be there for the lecture than get it second-hand, but when we’re on the road, you have to have time to do your work.”

Maintaining those grades becomes even harder when you are taking a course you don’t really enjoy, she said, adding, “sometimes you have to take a course that we really don’t feel like you need, but it’s required.”

After recording her first couple of 4.0’s during her freshman year, Pankey said that she realized that she could maintain that average while still devoting a lot of time to basketball.

“It fueled me,” she said.

And it also made her a role model.

This season several members of the women’s team found themselves in academic trouble.

“We had a couple who didn’t have their priorities straight,” Pankey said. “I understand that if you have a family emergency that has to come first. But you can’t let other things around campus be in your way. You have to maintain your GPA to remain an athlete.

“I advise them to get an organizer or a Palm Pilot, or a white board to put up all they have to do each day. I have them all and I use them.”

Her ranking has helped her to two All-District All-America Academic citations. She is probably in line to capture the school’s Academic Athlete of the Year award later this year.

Following graduation, Pankey hopes to seek a Master’s Degree.

“If not, I’ll probably do some work at a newspaper. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’d also like to write a book or two,” she said.

“And my dream job would be to work for a travel magazine, getting free trips to everywhere.”

Baldwin-Tener noted the magnitude of Pankey's accomplishments in light of the extraordinary circumstances.

“People don’t realize how much time goes into playing a collegiate sport," said Baldwin-Tener. "Anybody who can obtain a 4.0 for four years is truly amazing.”

Holland sees Pankey as a disciplined achiever who has demonstrated day in and day out to those whose paths she has crossed at East Carolina that very difficult goals should not be avoided, but pursued.

“We shouldn’t just point to the good examples,” Holland added. “We should obviously do our homework and do a better job. But it shows that it can be done. She serves as a role model for what we should be attempting to accomplish.”

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02/23/2007 02:43:52 PM
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